Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gigi Godwin's Testimony on the Purple Line

Georgette "Gigi" Godwin has been President and CEO of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce since 2006.

Good Evening. I am Gigi Godwin, President of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce. Thank you for the opportunity to testify tonight in support of the Purple Line. The business community supports those transportation projects that do the most to relieve congestion, promote economic development, and contribute to the long term economic and environmental vibrancy and sustainability of our community.

For those reasons, the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce supports a Light Rail Purple Line. We believe that this is the best long term investment that the Maryland and Federal Transit Administrations could make in our community. A Light Rail Purple Line will provide a reliable, efficient and environmentally sound mode of transportation for our employees, our students and all our citizens. A high quality mode of transportation is a critical component of attracting and retaining high tech employers and high tech jobs. And, finally, a Light Rail Purple Line will provide the missing link in our regional transit connectivity.

Therefore, we urge the selection of a Light Rail mode along the Georgetown Branch Alignment as the locally preferred alternative.

Reliability and Efficiency
In order for a new transit system to improve the convenience and connectivity of those who ride it everyday, it must be reliable and efficient. It must provide significant decreases in travel times via car and it must be able to reliably deliver on those promises for decreased travel times. The Light Rail options outlined in the DEIS significantly outperform the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) options in both reliability and efficiency.

Given that both the low and medium BRT systems would use shared lanes and existing roadways, reliability of these systems decrease as traffic continues to increase, with those buses stuck in the same traffic as the cars on the road, offering commuters no incentive to leave their cars and use the Purple Line. Light rail, however, with its faster speeds and dedicated right of way along the Georgetown branch trail, offers significant efficiency AND reliability, with travel times of 9 minutes from Bethesda to Silver Spring as opposed to the 25 minutes the Bus Rapid Transit system would offer.

For businesses and their employees, time is money, and the only way these employees will use the system is if they know they can rely on it to get them to their destination, whether it be work, school, or daycare, in a predictable and short period of time.

Economic Development Benefits
Economic Development along the Purple Line’s East/West corridor will prove to be a major benefit of the transit project. Many stations have been identified as opportunities for economic development including Chevy Chase Lakes, and the Takoma/Langely area, which is part of a joint master plan between Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. This kind of economic development is consistent with both Montgomery County and State of Maryland Strategy for transit oriented development that creates environmentally friendly pedestrian communities. Light rail is preferable to Bus Rapid Transit because of the fixed investment by government in the infrastructure, which gives potential buyers of property, both business and residential, a confidence that property will continue to appreciate because of proximity to the light rail station.

Regional Connectivity
The Purple Line plays a critical role in connecting our region’s outdated transportation system – a system based primarily on assumptions of employee’s work habits and commuter patterns that were true 30 years ago, but have drastically changed in the past three decades. As our economy has changed, so too has our workforce, and the way we work. A purple line light rail link is CRITICAL to ensuring new regional connectivity. This new regional connectivity will allow our community to continue to grow and thrive in our new, diverse, growing economy.

Thank you for the opportunity to get the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce’s comments regarding the AA/DEIS on the record. We look forward to working with the MTA to make this project a reality.